Eight days into his first term as State Treasurer, John Chiang painted a largely upbeat picture of California’s future.
But he also warned the Golden State is falling behind in meeting pension obligations and infrastructure needs.
Speaking at the 18th annual meeting of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, Chiang, formerly the state’s controller, cited a dramatic rein in of general fund revenue. In the depths of the of the recession, he said, “our cash deficit was so bad I never thought we would have a positive balance.”
He said the current “largely balanced” budget of $113 billion reflects “significant progress.”
He warned that California still faces some $71 billion in employee health retirement benefits and $700 billion in infrastructure improvements.
Chiang also said the state should not increase benefits as pensions get closer to full funding. Instead, he said the funds should “take steps to immunize risk” as funding levels approach 100 percent of obligations.
Looking forward, he said the state needs to do a better job of helping business navigate the 19 different entry points into the state tax system.
Chiang’s talk at Spanish Hills Country Club got the biggest applause when he cited the need for affordable housing. The state is not meeting the housing needs of the elderly, the disabled and the young, he said.